The Covid-19 pandemic has the potential to exacerbate existing inequalities and make voting even more difficult for people of color. Due to a variety of factors, including the fact that minorities are more likely to be “essential workers,” as well as less likely to have adequate health insurance and more likely to have pre-existing conditions, people of color are more vulnerable to the coronavirus and have been disproportionately dying due to it (1). They are therefore at increased risk if forced to vote in-person on election day, and this may discourage many voters from exercising their fundamental right to vote.
Additionally, we may see a shortage of poll workers. This is due to the fact that many poll workers are older american’s that volunteer in their retirement. Unfortunately, these workers are most at risk for COVID-19 and may opt not to volunteer in the 2020 election.
Vote By Mail
A remedy to the persistent danger of COVID-19 would be to empower all voters in Texas by allowing them to vote by mail. In fact, the Texas Democratic Party sought to enable all voters in the state to vote by mail, an option that is available in California, New York, Ohio, North Dakota and Oregon. In April, a judge ruled that people afraid of contracting the coronavirus while voting had a could vote via absentee ballot (2). The attorney general of Texas opposed the ruling (3), saying that fear of contracting COVID-19 is “an emotional condition and not a physical” one. In May 2020, the state’s all-Republican Supreme Court agreed the virus alone was not a valid reason (4) to vote by mail, but said voters could make their own decisions based on their health history. This ruling could increase confusion and “leave some people requesting mail ballots open to prosecution,” according to Disability Rights Texas. Additionally, the Attorney General has gone further by threatening the potential for criminal sanctions for groups that help voters obtain mail-in ballots. Currently, the Texas Democratic Party is appealing the decision, but in the meantime Texas voters, especially voters of color, are in an untenable position that may force them to choose between their health and their right to vote.